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Old 10-13-2011, 04:19 PM   #1
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Help me imagine the ULTIMATE vintage tow vehicle

Seeing recent threads about custom Suburbans with Duramaxes and Allison transmissions, it led me to wonder how my fellow Airstreamers would design the perfect vintage tow vehicle... from scratch.

My dream is to combine my favorite era Surubran body... with the best of what's available today; in other words, a 50's exterior with modern guts. The main goals would be:

- a 1955-1959 Suburban body,
- the safety, (ABS, some airbags, etc.) and comfort we all love on road trips,
- the familiarity and easy to find parts of a modern drivetrain for mechanics to work on
- plenty of power to tow a 22', 3-4000 lb. trailer
- a practical, everyday driver with today's MPGs.

Craigslist is full of old Burb bodies for $1500 - $3000... as well as used similar wheelbase vehicles to mate them with (early 2000's Tahoes, Silverados in the $10K-$15K range).

So, how would you achieve it? Just swap the bodies themselves? Incorporate all new elements bit by bit, into the oldie? Gas or diesel? 2x4 or 4x4? New dashboard trimmed to fit the old windshield? I'd love to hear your ideas on what would and wouldn't be a practical way to achieve this.
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Old 10-13-2011, 05:46 PM   #2
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A few odds and ends:

You should basically forget about airbags - they really won't be optimized for the structure (or lack thereof) in the older vehicle, and it's not something you want to mess with.

The other thing you won't get is stability control, because it would be a major engineering effort to calibrate it to the different chassis. (The generation of Tahoe you show doesn't have it either, but it is a feature of modern tow vehicles that is very, very desirable.) ABS is more doable.

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Old 10-13-2011, 05:54 PM   #3
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Old 10-13-2011, 09:45 PM   #4
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Mine would essentially be the Duraburb Tow Pro. Basically, they take the power train from a Duramax/Allison pickup and put them in a 3/4ton Suburban.
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Old 10-14-2011, 01:19 AM   #5
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One is not ever going to have good crash protection in an oldie. Adding a roll-cage, etc, won't make up for it. Three-point seatbelts with reinforced mounts are about it along that line. Not trying to rain on the parade, at all, just being "realistic". Best brakes and handling is where that is at, IMO. There's just no way to engineer "crumple zones" into a vehicle that never had them.

To help you imagine the ULTIMATE vintage tow vehicle I know my own. The vintage TV I would best enjoy would be a modified 1967 Imperial . . but the ultimate would be a DeSoto Suburban

and to do what you propose: perhaps a Cummins 4bt; more realistically a well-warmed V8-383; on a current truck frame to which the old body is adapted and changes made to retain a vintage appearance with up-to-date performance, (such as fully independent suspension and big 4-whl discs). Manual trans and seats that fold out into beds like the original could. A daytripper, not just a TV. And a custom rivetted aluminum roof carrier that complimented the trailer, and a paint job that paid homage to both the car and the trailer. Etc.

But it would be a toy, not a DD; a rolling avatar from The Paradise of Happy Motoring.

Your final sentence includes the word "practical", and I do not find that "ultimate" and "practical" to be together in the same room, much less to dovetail. My daydream TV would cost more than a 2012 top dollar 1T, easily.

"Ultimate" means ignoring time and dollars, no way around it. "Practical" means on-time and under-budget. What you propose will be neither. Better definitions are needed. My last old car (30+ years) was also my daily driver. Just making it new again, and making the relatively minor changes to live in todays traffic was a continual process.

I couldn't sleep tonight so am also reading a thread on restoring a 1970 Ford F250 crew cab with a Cummins 4bt in place of the old V8-390, here. This sort of thing is not for the faint of heart, and yet this one is relatively easy compared to many others I've seen. But a lot of $$ no matter how you cut it.

Luckily, there are quite a few around here with vintage TV's who'll be along to offer their experience. I do think your trailer is an ideal size (glad it is no bigger, and yet it isn't a beer cooler sized Bambi, either). I look forward to seeing how this comes along.

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Old 10-14-2011, 09:21 AM   #6
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Good points, Mutcth. Beyond the side curtain airbags, I figured you could keep the dash / steering column ones if everything in the cabin inside the windshield was modern vehicle, but you may be right and are absolutely correct about stability control - hadn't thought of that.

Rednax - thx for weighing in. I agree, I didn't phrase the original post as I should've. Ultimate throws all else out the window... I guess I meant ultimate balance of looks, practicality, safety, maintenance and cost. Difficult, but there's probably a sweet spot in there somewhere. Thx for the links, too.

Phbarnhart - the Duraburb thread is what sparked my question, actually. The notion of a dynamite tow vehicle in the shell of something unusual, unique, etc. is what's so attractive to me.

Splitrock - if you're suggesting my plan will wind up putting me 6 feet under... message received.
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Old 10-14-2011, 09:34 AM   #7

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Rob's got a nice one, Suburbick.

Iím done with ĎadultingíÖLetís go find Bigfoot.
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Old 10-14-2011, 09:52 AM   #8
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My ultimate doesn't exist

I think it would be nice to have a custom scaled down Peterbuilt put on a Chevy 3500 frame. A sleeper compartment on the back. With a horn that could take the chrome off of a SOB Motorhome bumper at 100 yards. Just saying'.
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